There are some basics of exercise science that you’ll need to know regardless of the education program you learn from. The definition of exercise science is the study of how the body responds and adapts to the physical and mental demands exercise places on it. The categories most exercise science programs address include human anatomy, kinesiology, exercise physiology, biology, biomechanics, exercise psychology, and nutrition. People interested in learning more about exercise science either do so for their own health benefits or to make a career in the fitness and wellness space. Jobs in the arena of exercise science aim to provide services or promote individual health, fitness, and wellness by way of physical activity. 

Here, we’ll address the common topic areas you’ll need to know when learning more about exercise science, regardless of whether it’s for your own personal fitness or to join the rewarding community of fitness professionals. And, read here for more information and descriptions of exercise science courses.

Human Anatomy And Physiology

The study of human anatomy and physiology is a broad topic. You won’t be studying it like a medical student. Instead, you’ll be learning about the body as it relates to physical activity and human performance. The human movement system is the coordinated efforts of the nervous, muscular, and skeletal systems. The study of how they work together in exercise is known as human movement science.

Nervous System

For the body to move, it needs a message from the nervous system. This system is divided into the central nervous system (also known as the CNS, including the brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (all the neurons extending from the CNS). Other key concepts here:

  • Motor Control: This is the process of starting, directing, and evaluating movement.
  • Motor Learning: The process of learning a new skill through practice and refinement
  • Mechanoreceptors: These are different specialized cells responsible for providing information about where the body is in space (proprioception) so it can control and coordinate movement in a changing environment. 

Muscular System

In exercise science, the focus is on skeletal muscle tissue. Once there is a message from the nervous system, the muscular system responds and pulls on the bones of the skeletal system. Key things you’ll learn regarding skeletal muscle tissue:

  • Types of muscle fibers: This includes fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers. Fast twitch are for quick, powerful, or strong movements. And, they fatigue quickly. Slow twitch muscle fibers are for longer duration and are resistant to fatigue.
  • Connective tissue: This is how the muscle attaches to bone and how bones attach to bone. The connective tissue attaching muscle to bone is a tendon.
  • Types of muscle contraction: A muscle can shorten, stay the same length, or lengthen. These are the different types of a muscle contraction and include (in order) concentric, isometric, eccentric.
  • Muscle as a mover: This includes the most relevant muscle groups responsible for movement. You’ll also learn their origin and attachment. This teaches you exactly where the muscle is and the joints it moves.

Skeletal System

When the muscular system contracts, it pulls on the levers of the body (bones) to create visible movement. 

  • Types of bones: These include long, short, irregular, and flat.
  • Types of joints: The movable joints (synovial joints) are most important in human movement science and include ball and socket, hinge, condyloid, pivot, gliding, and saddle.
  • Connective tissue: Ligaments connect bone to bone.


This is the study of the mechanics of body movement. While some physics will be involved, these are the basics of exercise science you need to know.

  • Planes of motion: This includes sagittal (forward and back motion), frontal (side to side motion), and transverse (rotational)
  • Joint motions: Joint motions and the muscle group responsible for them are critical in exercise science. These motions include flexion and extension, abduction and adduction, internal and external rotation, dorsiflexion and plantar flexion, and horizontal abduction and horizontal adduction.
  • Lever types in the body: There are three lever types. A first class lever is where the fulcrum is in the middle of the effort and the load. A second class lever is where the load is in the middle between the fulcrum and the effort. And, a third class lever is where the effort is in the middle between the load and the fulcrum.

Exercise Psychology

Especially if you’re working with people to increase their physical activity or for other health promotion reasons, exercise psychology is important. You’ll learn about the different types of motivation (intrinsic and extrinsic). You’ll also learn about the goal setting and all its different forms. Lastly, you’ll learn about the different stages of change people are in. All of this is critical, so you can not only provide fitness related advice, but also do so in a way that increases motivation and engagement.


Although learning about nutrition doesn’t qualify one as a dietitian, exercise science includes understanding how nutrition plays a role in exercise and wellness. This information will include the structure and function of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats). It also includes common supplements impacting human performance.

Program Design For Exercise Science

Most people seeking a degree in exercise science or exercise physiology are doing so as part of a fitness career in working with others. Therefore, principles of exercise program design become the pillars for many careers. Some common exercise science jobs include a personal trainer, fitness instructor, health educator, wellness director, athletic director, and sports coach to name a few. Therefore, knowing how to develop a program for weight training and cardiorespiratory training is important. Foundational concepts in exercise program design include:

  • General Adaptation Syndrome: This includes the three stages in how the body responds to stress including the alarm, resistance building, and fatigue stages.
  • Progressive overload: In order for the body to make a change, it needs to have demands beyond what it is currently doing. This is the concept of progressive overload.
  • SAID principle: This acronym stands for specific adaptations to imposed demands. Simply put, the body will respond and adapt exactly to the stressors placed on it.
  • Use/disuse principle: Any gains made as part of a cardio or weight training program will be lost eventually if they aren’t continued.


This list isn’t exhaustive of what you’ll learn as part of an educational exercise science program. However, it includes critical information that explains the basics of exercise science. 


You can earn a degree in exercise science and become a certified personal trainer with Lionel University. This allows you to work and make money in the field you want to be in long-term. The programs at Lionel include associates, bachelors, and master’s degree exercise science programs. 


The programs are 100% online, so you can learn in a convenient and remote way. And, financial aid is available. All of this makes pursuing a dream as a fitness professional possible. Contact Lionel today with more questions.